The Commedia dell’Arte of My Church Persona


I learned a great deal from my high school drama teacher, Kathy Breeden. Boistrous, delightful, and sometimes fear-inducing (“Commit!!!”), she was a shining beacon at Chillicothe High School. Aside from being a wonderful Christian woman, she also had an unbelievable command of the history and traditions of the theatre. We spent much of the year in “Drama I” learning about the Greek and Roman roots of modern day theatre. Some of the concepts I learned from her that continue to endure in my mind are:

  • Hamartia is the Greek word for a “fatal flaw.” Generally protagonists in tragedies have a hamartia.
  • Hubris is the Greek word for extreme pride. In many cases, in a Greek tragedy, the protagonist’s hamartia is hubris.
  • Deus ex machina, or “God from the machine,” was a device at the end of some Greek plays where something “miraculous” would happen to “save the day.” Literally,  in some cases, a Greek god would descend to the stage from a crane-like machine and resolve the plot of the play.

English: Commedia dell'arte masks

In addition to these Greek theatrical terms, we also learned about Commedia dell’Arte. Obviously, you can do a quick Google or Wikipedia search and find out more about what Commedia dell’Arte is, but the nutshell version is that it was a primarily Italian theatrical motif that featured a great deal of improvisational humor that was performed by sometimes masked performers who represented caricatured characters. For instance, there would be a “bumbling elderly man,” “typically overblown heroic males,” and “crafty, conniving servants.”

The actors in a Commedia dell’Arte troupe had to be very versatile, able to play any of the stereotypical roles with equal adeptness.

My Christian “walk” had become a one-man Commedia dell’Arte (of sorts) and I had become an extremely versatile “player.” Did our church need someone to serve in the hospitality ministry? I just needed to don my hospitality mask and play the hospitable servant. Did our church need someone to go on mission to Panama? I could whip out the missionary mask and play the part of the humble, evangelical missionary. Did our church need someone to teach a class on Wednesday nights? Hold on…let me just dig out the teacher mask and play the part of the wise teacher who knows the Bible forwards and backwards–well, forwards at least.

Thirty years of experience playing the part of dutiful Christian. That’s what I had. And you better believe that the longer it went on, the degree of difficulty increased as well. I was a “chameleon,” changing my color when the situation called for it. I could transform at the drop of a hat into whatever was needed.

And boy, was I good at it.

Funny thing about my little private Commedia dell’Arte…it was neither comedy, nor art. In retrospect it was despicable. Jesus tell the church in Laodicea:

 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. —Revelation 3:15-16 (HCSB)

I don’t know about you, but that is one of the straight-up freakiest verses in the Bible.  I mean, think about it. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, says that if we straddle the fence and try to be “lukewarm” or indifferent instead of on fire or cold towards Him, he’s going to vomit us out of His mouth.

Truth was, during that 30-year stretch I went from warm to lukewarm to cool-ish to cold, all while maintaining an “on fire for Jesus” exterior. But no matter how talented a deceiver I was, everything would eventually collapse under the weight of all the lies and trickery I had devised.

And eventually, it did…

Keep coming back as I detail more of my journey from someone with a gleaming “religious resume” to someone who fell into the arms of the Savior, exposing my long period of deceit.

Advertisements

“Meteor Shower” by Owl City

Video


Yes, that’s right. I’m posting an Owl City song on “The REboot” journal. For those of you who don’t know, Adam Young, the man behind Owl City, is a Christian, and while he doesn’t necessarily write a lot of songs with overt Christ-centered messages in them, he does record some on occasion. And, along with my posting of 2 Corinthians 5:17 today, this song follows the theme perfectly of a “new creation in Christ.”

“My Passion” by Travis Cottrell

Video


This is a very simple song with a very powerful message that speaks to me with great power every time I hear it. It is a song of thanksgiving and devotion, and if you are a believer and can listen to it without being overcome with tremendous emotion, head on over to the ER and have them bust out the defibrillator.

The Terrifying Aesthetic of Grace


The concept of “grace” is something—in all my academic splendor—I can’t really wrap my head around. It certainly is not something I come by naturally. I rarely find myself tending towards treating others with grace as a matter of habit or instinct.

Perhaps I was born without a “grace gene,” which would explain my inability to fully comprehend it. I don’t know. Or maybe everyone else in the world finds it as perplexing as I do.

I’ve heard it explained many times, and frequently, those explanations satisfy the turmoil in my brain when it comes to understanding grace. My favorite definition is that, while “mercy” is being saved from a punishment we do deserve, “grace” is receiving something (good) that we don’t deserve.

Grace has a certain appeal on a conscious, intellectual level. I mean, who doesn’t want to receive a gift that they never earned? Heck, I love that kind of stuff. When friends offer to pay for a meal for no particular reason other than “because they want to,” I eat that stuff up (pun intended).

But when we allow grace to sink down into the fertile soil of the soul, there is a mortifying flip-side to grace. Deep within ourselves, we suspect that we are deserving of some form of punishment for all the bad that we do. We can’t help ourselves (literally). The road we’ve traveled to get where we are today is marred by horrifying lapses in judgment, missteps of the grandest kind, and repetitive sins that defy any rational explanation. As Paul said in Romans 7:24a: “What a wretched man I am!”

But amazing grace saved a wretch like me. And while this makes for a “sweet sounding” verse, it is shocking and a bit terror-inducing.

Why, you might ask?

Because grace of that magnitude requires a response. Grace forces a crossroads point in life multiple times over.

First, in recognizing the grace of Jesus Christ, we are forced with a decision to accept it or reject it. Fortunately, this is not a “one and done” type of decision, and those who have chosen to reject the grace of Jesus can, at any time before death, change and choose to accept it. Of course, the unpredictability of life makes that a bit of a gamble, one whose consequences stretch over the never-ending continuum of Eternity.

Second, upon accepting the gracious, free gift of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, we are faced with a powerful call to action. Over and over in the Bible, after people’s lives were radically changed when their paths intersected with Jesus Christ, we find them subsequently running through the streets to proclaim their encounter with the Son of God. When our lives collide with incomparable beauty of grace, our reaction should be similar.

But that’s scary, isn’t it?

The grace of God is one of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful spiritual truths in the Universe. God’s love for us prompted Him to extend grace to billions of people who could not possibly do anything to deserve it, all through the undeserved suffering of His own Son.

But the flip-side of the beauty is the terrifying aesthetic of grace—a horrifying and weighty responsibility that comes with that grace.

We now carry that grace within us, and we are responsible for sharing it and extending it to others, neither of which is easy.

But it is truth, and truth is rarely easy to swallow.

So, I stand before you (digitally speaking) and share with you, throughout the course of this journal, my story. It is my responsibility to share. I am motivated to share. I am held accountable to share. And parts of my story are ugly, shameful, and downright disgusting.

Scary?

Yes.

Necessary?

Of course.

It’s the terrifying aesthetic of a life that has accepted the gift of grace.

“I look back on…

Quote


“I look back on my own life—even as few as ten years ago—and wonder what damage I have done to God’s kingdom by claiming Christ and living for myself. Fortunately, our God never gives up on us. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, he waits and hopes that, some day, we will realize the filth that we are. In those childhood professions we too often become the prodigal son. We belong to His family but have no idea what that means. Too many of our churches and youth programs focus only on the profession of faith and not on training to be good servants. I read the Bible, attended church, got plugged in, etc. All to make myself a better person instead of to be a better SERVANT.  The Christian life is one of service to God—for God—not for self. We are fortunate our Father watches over us and waits for us with so much patience and grace.”

A testimony sent to me by high school friend David Warren over Facebook. So much truth!